BY THOMAS MICHALSKI
By the earlier 1990s, Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier was already an internationally well-known art-house auteur, fresh from winning a slew of awards, including the Palm d’Or at Cannes, with Europa, the final film in a trilogy of the same name. His increasing notoriety and the end of Europa had brought his career to a crossroads, but figuring out what he would do next was complicated by the fact that his personal life was falling apart all around him. There was the divorce from his first wife, the death of his father, or at least the man he thought to be his father until his mother, who passed away soon afterward, informed him otherwise, and if that wasn’t enough, he had his cash-strapped production company, Zentropa, to worry about. In an attempt to raise some money, while also keeping things low impact, Von Trier agreed to co-write and direct a miniseries, the supernatural hospital drama Riget (The Kingdom), for Danish TV in 1994. From the outside, it must have looked like a step backward, career-wise, but if it had inauspicious beginnings, Riget would turn out to be some of Von Trier’s best remembered work and have a profound effect on what came after it.
Riget borrows its title from the nickname of the real life Danish hospital where it takes place, Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet, though if it’s anything like on the show, you probably wouldn’t want to be a patient there. For one thing, it’s haunted as fuck, with the ghastly cries of a young girl emanating from an